Sunday, March 29, 2009

Document & Reproduction: Hartfield "Meryton"

The document print is the original print on which a reproduction is based. For the "Meryton" reproduction print in my Hartfield collection (the ivory print on the left) the document print is a piece of antique fabric that may have been a ruffle for a chair. I have a piece big enough that you can still see the selvage edge. There are a few unintelligible letters and several numbers on that very wide selvage.

The document print looks to be a combination roller/wood block print. The background is what was called a fancy machine ground, printed by a copper roller finely incised with pattern. The feathery leaves seem to be more colored shapes than line so I am guessing they were applied with a wood block, possibly a wood block with some wires inserted to print those outlines. The original print might be about 1800 or so because of that fancy machine ground background, but I'd guess not too much later. Notice the break---a wrinkle in the roller--- in the ground pattern that isn't reflected in the leaf pattern, an indication they were printed at different times.

If you'd like to learn more about early prints you'll want to subscribe to my e-club at C&T Publishing, "Barbara Brackman's Clues in the Calico". Each month you get online information about an early print style plus a pattern for a traditional medallion border or two. Click here for more information CluesintheCalico.com.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Document & Reproduction: Hartfield's "Netherfield Park"

The document print is the original print on which a reproduction is based. For "Netherfield Park" in the Hartfield line (the brown fat quarter on the right) I found a few swatches in an old nine-patch quilt that looks to date from about 1830. I think many of the fabrics in the nine-patches are about twenty years older than the set.

The original for "Netherfield Park" was a roller-printed cotton done in blue. These early roller prints are remarkably detailed because the print designers working after 1800 used the same technology that engravers used for banknotes. They adapted the copper plate's surface to a cylinder format and changed the printer's ink to dyer's formulas. Hartfield colorways include Knightley's umber brown, Emma's hedge green, ivory and Marianne's plum.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jane Austen's Dark Joke

Jane Austen wrote about sewing in her letters but she didn't seem to care much for plain sewing, the everyday chore of women in her time. She and her family played what they called charades, word games in which they had to guess a compound word. Here is one that her niece Mary Augusta Austen-Leigh attributed to Aunt Jane.

When my first is a task to a young girl of spirit,
And my second confines her to finish the piece,
How hard is her fate! but how great is her merit
If by taking my whole she effect her release!

This charade in the appendix to Austen-Leigh's 1920 book Personal Aspects of Jane Austen was illustrated with the drawing of the seamstress eyeing a bottle of poison on the mantle. The answer to the charade is HEMLOCK, a poison. The task to "a young girl of spirit" would be a HEM. The second part of the word, which "confines her to finish the piece," is a LOCK. This dark joke is an indication of how little Jane looked forward to her plain sewing chores.